Marathon expansion permit Ok’d

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 8, 2007


Editor and Publisher

GARYVILLE – Marathon Oil Corporation in St. John Parish has received its permits to begin the $3.2 billion expansion of the local oil refinery.

Plant Manager Rich Bedell confirmed to L’Observateur that Marathon had received the permits in the past week, getting both Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) permits, which gives Marathon the go-ahead to begin the massive project.

&#8220We’ve got the green light to go,” Bedell said. &#8220We will begin a lot of soil testing pretty soon and bringing in dirt by April. It’s a big project, but we’re pretty excited about it.”

Bedell said he was told by state officials that the project is the &#8220largest ever done in the state of Louisiana.”

The Marathon expansion will increase oil production at the plant from 245,000 barrels per day to 425,000 barrels of oil per day, and obviously with that growth, add many good paying jobs to the region.

Bedell estimates that 200 full time jobs will be added at Marathon, of which he has already begun the hiring for some of those positions.

&#8220We have already added 22 operators and will be adding more as the expansion moves along,” he said. &#8220We will have a job fair sometime this year so contract workers know how they can get involved in what we are doing here.”

The construction jobs for a project this huge will be some big numbers as well. Bedell said he expects between 2,000 and 4,000 jobs to be provided for the area temporarily until the expansion is finished, which he currently has scheduled for October, 2009.

&#8220I think that one thing about these construction jobs that will make them more appealing is that it’s not like a lot of construction projects that may be for a few months,” he explained. &#8220These jobs will last from 2007 until well into 2009, so we hope that will help us draw a lot of skilled workers to help us get this done.”

The expansion includes a new crude and vaccum distillation unit, construction of infrastructure and other process units, and incorporate the latest safety and environmental control technologies at the refinery. Marathon is the first and only refinery to be included in the U.S. EPA’s elite National Environmental Performance Track, and they were also one of the first refineries to achieve OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program Star designation.

&#8220The Garyville expansion project will help our country meets its growing energy needs by providing an additional 7.5 million gallons of clean transportation fuels to the market each day, while also benefiting the Louisiana economy at a critical time,” said Gary R. Heminger, executive vice president of Marathon and president of the company’s refining, marketing and transportation operations.

&#8220Our first priority is operating safely and in an environmentally sound manner, and we are committed to keeping all interested parties informed and updated as we move forward with this important project.”

Not only will St. John and the entire River Region benefit from the expansion in terms of new jobs, but the impact to the local economy is enormous.

Marathon was already the biggest sales tax payer to St. John each year, with a total this year of over $10 million. The new expansion should bring an estimated $40 million to $50 million to St. John for sales and use taxes during the project construction, as well as millions more in annual sales tax after it is up and running.

Bedell said that much of this year will be for infrastructure work that includes fill dirt and building roads, while sinking pilings for the actual facility, before serious construction begins in 2008 and continues into 2009.

While he admitted a concern about the tight job market regionally since Hurricane Katrina, he did not foresee a problem keeping the project on schedule since Marathon works with many area hiring agencies and contractor firms.

&#8220The labor market in the U.S. is fluid and can move from region to region, and I think we will do alright since this is a long term project for a lot of construction related workers who will want to be a part of it,” he added.